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‘We’Re One Hurricane Away From Disaster’

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest starts the Budget debate. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest starts the Budget debate. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

By AVA TURNQUEST and RASHAD ROLLE

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net, rrolle@tribunemedia.net

FINANCE Minister Peter Turnquest yesterday insisted the country was one major hurricane away from “total disaster” as he defended the impending value added tax hike in the face of mounting calls for the government to reconsider.

After poll results indicated a wide majority of Bahamians oppose the 2018-2019 budget and the VAT increase, Mr Turnquest stressed the country could not continue to “borrow on our future”.

Meanwhile, Official Opposition Leader Philip Davis told The Tribune he feared there would be “grave unrest” given the concerns levelled by the business community over the shock increase, adding it was not too late for the government to “sit back, listen, and reverse itself”.

Mr Davis said he fully expected the government to continue its election campaign narrative of demonising the Progressive Liberal Party for its own incompetence.

A new scientific poll from marketing and research firm Public Domain, released on Sunday, revealed 76 percent of Bahamians opposed the 2018-2019 budget.

The poll results also show 73 percent of people generally oppose the VAT increase to 12 percent from 7.5 percent, 22 percent generally support it and five percent said they don’t know.

“It’s a poll,” Mr Turnquest said yesterday.

“The thing about polls is it really depends on who is taking it and what the questions are and the mood at the time. We understand that the increase of value added tax has taken some people by surprise.

“We understand there are those who are going to be upset and disappointed that they have more taxes being required of them, but the reality is that at the end of the day the Bahamian public ought to be really upset at the way we have allowed this unchecked spending, and unchecked borrowing to go on year after year, which has gotten us to this point where we are today.

“The reality is if we’re going to give ourselves a chance to be more progressive in the things and services that government provides,” he said, “as well as to be more holistic in the way we develop our country and be more inclusive. These are things we just have to face.”

The Minnis administration has faced considerable criticism over its decision to increase the VAT rate by some 60 percent from 7.5 to 12 percent without seemingly consulting stakeholders. Critics have also raked the FNM party over its staunch opposition to the introduction and administration of the tax under the former Progressive Liberal Party government.

Mr Turnquest previously defended the lack of consultation surrounding VAT’s increase, saying governments keep revenue measures close to the chest to discourage consumer behaviour that could upend government revenue projections.

Yesterday, Mr Turnquest insisted there was “no way we can continue to borrow.”

“The interest rate expense on these loans is going up astronomically,” he said. “It’s not even just the borrowing but the cost of financing the borrowing and I think people are missing that connection.

“We cannot continue to borrow on our future,” he said.

“Circumstances change. Things happen. We are only one major hurricane away from total disaster. We don’t need to get there to see what happens. We have examples around as to what happens.”

Mr Turnquest added: “I understand the polls if in fact they are accurate. Certainly we don’t question whether they are accurate or not, that’s really up to the public to decide. We know no one wants to pay taxes but it is a necessary element unfortunately of the government.”

For the scientific poll, which was conducted between June 2 and June 6, 800 respondents were selected by “random” telephone selection. The survey has a margin of error of 3.46 percent.

M’wale Rahming, president of Public Domain, said the results are the latest indication the Minnis administration is heading toward the “point of no return,” that moment when Bahamians’ disapproval of an administration may not be capable of reversal.

Yesterday, Mr Davis maintained the VAT increase was an outright betrayal of the electorate’s trust, telling The Tribune those results evidenced a sentiment his party believes has been growing steadily since the general election.

He confirmed his party will be supporting a march against the tax increase with the “We Rise” group on Thursday.

“But it was not unexpected,” Mr Davis continued, “because the lies they told on the campaign trail are catching up to them. They lied to them, sowed lies, and it is what will be reaped at the end of the day. I just admonish the government to listen to the voice of the people, otherwise this does not bode well for the stability of the country.

“When I talk to business persons they are all decrying this sudden increase. I think the government just has to sit back listen and reverse itself. It’s not too late, I portend grave unrest in the sense of the uncertainty of the business community, having been caught off guard in the way they have.

“At the last budget in June there is no foreshadowing of any increase. They just had a half-time report, a glowing report just six weeks ago about how what they’re doing is impacting the economy and then six weeks we’re struck with this? It’s deceit.”

Mr Davis added: “I doubt one can claim legacy in this regard, this is just a continuing campaign exercise where they had to demonise the PLP and blame them for what they are doing, but I think it’s their own incompetence.”

Comments

TalRussell 1 week, 2 days ago

Ma Comrade KP has developed special bond listening his own justifications brungin' forward the unthinkable 12% VATable hike. 12% VATable has greater potential cause more PeoplePublic suffering.... and even some deaths resulting from hurricane. Will hurricane plywood and screws fall under 12% VATable. by a Imperial shirts cabinet out screw working man's and woman's? Will new $700 fee claim loved-one's body from PMH Morgue, be 12% VATable?

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proudloudandfnm 1 week, 2 days ago

Would love to know how you expect Freeport to deal with more taxes. We have been without any tourism or maritime industry now for two years. What are we supposed to pay with?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 2 days ago

The scare tactics despicably being used by Minnis and Turnquest to justify the 60% increase in VAT are no different than those that were used by Christie and Halkitis when VAT was first introduced at 7.5%. These two incompetent scoundrels, Minnis and Turnquest, are dishonest to the point where they should each be much more concerned about the second coming of Jesus Christ than the coming of any hurricane.

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TalRussell 1 week, 2 days ago

Ma Comrades, I be first admit that not everything I hear from my somewhat trusted sources, or from street corners, may be without suspect..... still think has possibilities touch credibility... even if its just way I personally thinks red shirts does thinks about 91,409 voting 35 red shirts 10th May 2017....so I heard that KP, had be talked out flying into Freeport to hold what he believed would be 'huge rally' turnout in support of 12% VATable, { No making this up but if it's not shameful Imperial reds be under veil suspect.... what hell }.

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 2 days ago

Mr Turnquest is exactly correct once again. If we have another major hurricane and there is no money, the public will want to lynch him. He is getting the money together. Everyone can see the economy improving. Investor confidence will only continue to go up as they see a government who FOR ONCE in our history has decided to take fiscal responsibility and dares to use terms like "balanced budget." That term is the equivalent of "Hell fire" to PLP leaches.

The D-average lower class needs to try hard keep their condoms on and their mouths shut.

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geostorm 1 week, 2 days ago

I couldn't agree with you more. Many Bahamians are so politically motivated that they refuse to see the end results of what Mr. Turnquest and his team are trying to do. Who wouldn't want fiscal responsibility for their country? The ignorance just baffles me. To Mr. Turnquest and crew, do what it takes to preserve and strengthen the Bahamian economy. That is what I elected you to do.

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 2 days ago

Please , we could have had a booming economy and one major hurricane would devastate us.

Just another straw man argument to cover the fact that KP and .Johnson lifted these numbers directly from the WTO analyst's most dire model, they looked at how much money they would make and had no clue of the negative implication of the changes. Just look at the amount of backtracking they had to do, the hastily called press conferences. They weren't prepared for any of it. And they'll likewise not be prepared when employers nation wide (forget the webshops), start laying off people and the foodstores jack up prices to cover their increased import and utility bills and cash flow problems reclaiming VAT

Btw have they abolished the office of the spouse? That women's issues duplication of resources is the definition of unnecessary spending.

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joeblow 1 week, 2 days ago

For those who may not be aware, we have always been one hurricane away from disaster!

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 2 days ago

ThisIsOurs ... hopefully "employers nationwide" will bear in mind that every laid off employee is actually a consumer. A consumer without money cannot consume.

People are blowing this waaaay out of proportion. The sky is not falling. We are headed to better and prosperous times. Investors worldwide are probably just itching to come here and do things, esp. with the new tech investment law and this new move to balance our budget.

However, i guess now they will go back into waiting mode. Waiting to see if Bahamians are going to take to the streets and beg for bankruptcy.

Amazing how everyone is suddenly concerned about how Govt spends our money - but nobody gave a damn while Perry was in power. No street riots demanding accountability except the couple little "shows" by the good senator.

However, the most we had (i marched every time) was 3000 people. One march was on a holiday - so unless you were in hospital everyone should have been there. There should have been at least 80,000 people on that march. Have you seen the protest march videos from Venezuela, Pohland, France?

Those people care. Bahamians too lazy to march against the PLP when they catchin contract.

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 2 days ago

"ThisIsOurs ... hopefully "employers nationwide" will bear in mind that every laid off employee is actually a consumer. A consumer without money cannot consume."

Exactly!!! You've just covered a two hour course on how economies shrink. Business for whatever reason can't sustain current level of employment, business cuts staff to maintain profitability, staff on unemployment line can't buy goods, business has less customers, business cuts more staff, more customers can't buy , business closes, business doesn't contribute to govt taxes, govt gets less revenue, business owner can't buy same amount of goods...

And I have never once heard an employer say I have to keep these people so they could buy goods. Business owners are ALWAYS eagle eyed on their margins.

No the sky isn't falling. And nobody including you knows if it will fall. What people ARE saying is the RISK they are taking isn't justified by our current circumstance. They may actually push the sky off the ledge by taking risks beyond what's necessary.

FNM rabid supporters (just the rabid ones) are amazing, how can you say "it's amazing how everyone concerned now and no one said a word about Perry???? Were you missing from this page when EVERYONE except Birdie Tal and Mudda was complaining??? Were you missing on Election Day when Perry Christie lost his seat?" and 3000 people is quite a lot of people when no one giving out free beer.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 1 day ago

You have a very short memory of convenience for you and you alone.

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 1 day ago

I apologize and take it back, I confused you "not complaining" with you advocating against Minnis as a viable option, and those are indeed two very different things!!

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 2 days ago

Sorry to hear people prefer free beer to a country of their own - but that is their choice.

Your economics is spot on, and K.P. knows this too. I actually would have preferred 10% BUT maybe come Nov 1st if God and King Salacie spare us from any major hurricane damages, govt can then reduce it to 10%.

I will send in a request. LOL.

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 1 day ago

This is why we need a Sovereign Wealth Fund and a National Lottery ...... for rainy days.

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